The Marvelization of Spider-Man

Yet another Spide-Man movie has been released! Naturally, as a huge Spider-Man fan, I had to go see it. I took the wife and kid to the drive-in, and sat down with the popcorn, all hyped up for a great film. There’s a lot of good in the movie, but there’s a lot of disappointment. I didn’t like the film, so what follows is my opinion of Spider-Man Homecoming.

One of the positives that people point out is the lack of origin story. Being the third reboot in 10-15 years, many of us are familiar with Peter Parker’s backstory, the radioactive spider, Uncle Ben’s death and becoming a hero.

The introduction, setting the scene, was great and comical. It introduces the villain, his motivation, and shows Peter’s point of view of the events in Civil War. We see his struggle to prove himself to Tony Stark.

Despite all this, I feel like the film lacks motivation. Sure, seeing Uncle Ben die, yet again, would be boring (supposedly). And the phrase, “with great power comes great responsibility,” has reached new levels of clichê (they say). Although, cheesy and repetitive, these moments define Peter Parker. They motivate him and drive what he does. They make him Spider-Man.

In contrast, Peter’s motivation in Homecoming is to be an Avenger, to be a hero and save people. But why does he want to save people? That question isn’t answered.

Peter has a sweet suit in Homecoming, especially once he deactivates the “Training Wheels Program.” Then, he gets an Iron Man suit. It’s high-tech, cool and has an AI system built in. It can do anything.

Having a suit that does everything for Peter, takes away from his ingenuity and creativity.

In the Amazing Spider-Man, Peter can’t release his web on his own. So, he invents and creates a device that allows him to shoot webs. Simple and seemingly round about, but it demonstrates how smart he is.

Instead of a computer showing him several different web combinations, he makes them himself. I remember in Spider-Man 2, he lands on a car and two burgalrs turn to shoot him but, before they can fire, he shoots two web balls, like bullets or sandbags, and disarms his opponents. Or when Doc OC breaks the breaks to the metro, (haha, breaks the breaks…) He starts throwing people and Spider-Man shoots these giant webs to catch the innocent civilians.

These are two cases in which Spider-Man/Peter Parker makes his own webs, without the help of a computer. He’s a smart kid that can figure things out, and that’s always been one of his characteristics.

Peter Parker always has a love interest because it’s always about a girl. Now, whether it’s Mary Jane, Gwen or Michelle, Peter likes them because of their good looks. That’s a given, but it’s only the start. As a teenager, that’s usually enough to like a girl, but as one gets older, they realize there’s more and how superficial looks are. You may argue that Peter is a teenager, he’s 15 so he doesn’t need a deeper reason to like Michelle. Maybe so, but it made her a boring, one-sided love interest.

Peter (and the audience) liked Mary Jane because she was more than a pretty face. She stood up for Peter when others made fun of him. Peter (and the audience) felt for her as we saw how her family treated her or as she met with failure trying to find an acting career. Then rejoiced when she did!

Gwen was a brilliant physicist. They laughed and talked. We felt a sting of pain when she was going to move out of the country for her academics. We mourned when she died because we had a connection with her.

When Michelle left at the end of Homecoming, I didn’t feel anything. She was just a pretty face with a crazy dad. Peter and her didn’t have any good screen time or moments. There was no reason for them to like each other apart from good looks.

And yes, they are teenagers and largely incapable of higher thought, but it was still boring.

Spider-Man is now part of Disney, part of the same cookie-cutter Marvel Machine, an assembly line story that looks good and feels good but has no substance. It makes a clean crisp movie that feels fake. It has light humor, which is fun, but then deflates any serious situation and avoids character development.

To demonstrate this stark contrast between previous Spider-Man installments and the newest, let’s remember the boat scene in Homecoming. As you’ll recall, some alien gun or bomb or whatever exploded, ripping the boat in half. Spider-Man desperately tries to keep the ship together, by shooting dozens of webs and then places himself in the middle, trying to hold everything together, whole being stretched in a dozen different directions. He ultimately fails and Iron Man saves the day.

Compare a similar scene with one found in Spider-Man 2. Doc Oc sabotages the trains breaks and Spider-Man desperately shoots out dozens of webs and places himself in the front of the train, attempting to stop it. He is in the same position as Spider-Man in Homecoming, arms stretched out, holding webs, being pulled in a dozen different directions but trying to keep it together.

This scene means much more in Spider-Man 2 than Homecoming. In Spider-Man 2 he’s trying to balance being a superhero, a student, a job, paying rent and maintaining a relationship with Mary Jane and his mom. Much of the film shows his struggle to balance his normal life and his superhero life. While he’s being pulled apart literally trying to save the train, it shows, figuratively, his struggle to balance his life.

The similar scene and imagery are used in Homecoming, but it’s not as strong. His love interest is boring. We don’t know his mom. He’s not struggling to pay rent and his grades don’t seem to be suffering at all.

The comparison between these two scenes shows the contrast between the two movies. It demonstrates the emotional investment of the old ones and the flashy, lack of emotion found in the newest installment.

In conclusion, I compare storytelling to a well-balanced diet. Sure you can fill up on dessert, but it’s not good for you. You also have to eat your vegetables. These Marvel movies are all dessert and they lack the essential vegetables that make for a good story. They are flashy but lack substance.


New series: Writing Tips

My writing tips

Last Saturday I wrote a small snippet of a story and by using it as a template, I want to highlight important storytelling elements. This will be an ongoing series. 
The Lowest Point

My wife and I enjoy watching Jane the Virgin (on Netflix. We are behind so please no spoilers!!) There is a brief story arc in which Jane’s father, international telenovela star Rogelio, is kidnapped by a stalker. Throughout the episode, he is planning his escape. He is getting friendly with his captor, being on good behavior and then the moment comes and he is about to escape. He is right at the door and he is caught. 

While reflecting on this scene I thought, “I know why he didn’t escape. He hasn’t reached his lowest point yet.”

The lowest point is part of a character’s story arc. They have an obstacle, someone or something is standing in their way. Often, plans do not work out right the first time (just like real life!), and they enter their lowest point. 

Try this exercise. Raise your hand as high as you can. I know it’s silly but no one is watching so go ahead, as high and you can. Now, raise it higher. You were probably able to raise your hand even higher the second time despite, supposedly, raising it as high as you could the first time.

For a character’s story arc, this can be inversed. What is the character’s lowest point? Now go lower. 

It’s mean, as a writer to do that to someone, even fictional, but the lowest point contrasts with the success, making the victory even better. 

In my short narrative, I tried to demonstrate the lowest point. In an instant everything was taken from him, especially the woman he loved. And he was hopeless to save his people. He was in his lowest point. But a question creeps into the mind, now how does he escape?

The deeper the hole, the more the reader wants to see the hero succeed. How do they get out? As one sees the characters succeed it gives hope to real life events. 

Happy writing!

“Sigo en la lucha”: I’m still in the fight

Like all idioms and sayings, it doesn’t translate perfectly. “Sigo en la lucha,” means, “I’m still in the fight.” (Not to be confused with “Sigo en la ducha,” which would be, “I’m still in the shower”).

When I lived in Argentina. I’d ask, “how are you?” to which many replied, “I’m still in the fight.”

Writing is tough. Sure it’s not football tough, or, construction job tough, or social worker tough. Writing has its own difficulties and challenges. It fatigues my mind and makes me restless. The emotional strength needed to handle criticism, or just friendly advise, is monumental. And finding the time… I don’t time to talk about that!

As writers, let’s “stay in the fight.” One day we will reach our goal. And honestly, even if we don’t, we write because we love to and that’s reward enough. 

The Writer’s Life: Perception vs. Reality

You know those scenes in movies where the character(s) are determined to work? They get into it, all happy with awesome music playing in the background. They wipe their brow off all tired, comical scenes ensue and within the three minute song the goal is done?

This happens with writing portrayals too. The writer sits at a computer, the ideas flowing and the sentences are running across the page. The writer looks pensively out a window, probably with their fingers at their temples, gazing through their glasses. 

How about the writer who has all the cool accessories? They have a cool notebook and pencil, or a laptop with cool stickers on the front and probably a cool bag to boot. They are well put together and look smart. 

The reality is that writing isn’t easy, despite the words rolling off the page and having a cool notebook.

There is so much more to it!

What isn’t shown is the editing and the daily struggle, the endurance to keep rewriting. 

Honestly, that is the bulk of being a writer, revising what you already wrote. It’s tedious, the opposite of cool, but the reward of achieving a fine narrative… worth it!

Expanded Universe and Cartoons

Maybe it’s just me but cartoons are getting more complicated. It seems that cartoons now have an overarching plot, and an expanded universe with history and character back story.

I was thinking of the plot structure in such cartoons as Adventure Time and Steven Universe. They start off small, simple characters, simple stories and often filled with goofy antics. As the episodes progress, the world becomes bigger, deeper and scarier. We learn about the past, about deception and death. We learn more about those we called family, and how they are not so one-sided. 

I think this kind of “unfolding” story is popular because the progression of the story mirrors growing up. That is, as we grow up, the world becomes more complicated. Gone are the days of simple yes or no, good guys, bad guys and the world becomes more intricate, indiscernible, and often, darker.

These sort of stories are a type of “rites of passage,” which I like a lot. Trouble is that everything is so dark. I feel like stories have to be dark to be liked. Regardless, I like how these kinds of stories start of small and expand and develope. I’m excited to see how they evolve over the years. 

Maybe one of my own stories will leave a mark. 🙂

ISWG Writing Contest

“What is ISWG?” you asked yourself. It stands ofr Insecure Writers’ Group.

It’s this group I found on Facebook. I like it because everybody is open and non-judgemental. It’s a safe zone for learning and putting yourself out there.

They are currently hosting a writing contest, ending 10/31. I thought to myself, “this is my chance!” I had an idea in the back of my head that I told myself, “If I ever enter a writing contest, I’m using this idea.”

While writing, I was concerned about the word count. 5000-6000 words. I worried, “I won’t have enough! I’ll have too much!!” I stopped myself. “Don’t worry. Just write.” (Good slogan for a coffee mug. Patent pending!)

I finished my story and began editing. Then I noticed the word count was over 9000… I didn’t know what to do! The story was solid! I couldn’t cut anything out! 

So I decided not to enter the contest. The due date is in two days, I can’t write another story that fast and I don’t want to change the great story I already have, just for a word count.

Tough decisions, but I’m sure there are other writing contests out there. Let me know of any!